Coronavirus News: New Zealand announces lockdown; Hong Kong bars entry to all non-residents - live updates
The waiting time for a test is four to five days, with several more days for results, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE), meaning people who suspect they have the disease are left in the dark for around a week.
Around 40,000 people are waiting for a test, a backlog that hinders contact tracing and leaves healthcare workers who are in self-isolation, and potentially healthy, unable to work.
Simon Harris, the health minister, told RTE on Monday that additional testing facilities were being opened across the country and that healthcare workers and other groups may be given priority testing until the backlog is cleared.
The minister also warned of potential further closures of public amenities after crowds gathered at parks over weekends.
The HSE confirmed 121 new cases on Sunday, raising Ireland’s total to 906. Northern Ireland reported 20 cases, bringing its total to 128.
A nursing home and a direct provision centre which hosts asylum seekers have reported infections, fuelling fears of rapid contagion among vulnerable people who cannot easily self-isolate.
Spain: 650,000 rapid testing kits distributed
The first to receive the kits will be frontline hospital staff and those in the regions most affected by the spread of the virusBy Sunday evening, the health ministry had recorded 28,572 cases and 1,720 deaths.
Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has called on the EU to instigate a “Marshall Plan” to counter the economic effects of the crisis, and also announced that the state of emergency will be extended until 11 April.
Despite the central government’s nationwide lockdown, some argue it is not doing enough to tackle the virus.
On Sunday, the regional government of the southeastern region of Murcia announced “the total shutdown of the region, except for minimal services”.
It was rebuked by the central government, which said such an order could be given only by the health minister.”The Spanish government continues to follow the WHO’s recommendations at all times and reiterates that it has adopted the strictest measures on Europe and some of the strictest globally when it comes to beating the coronavirus,” the central government said in a statement.”
We once again appeal for unity between administrations and stress out constant willingness to co-ordinate and collaborate with autonomous regions in the fight against the pandemic.”
Three of the new cases are reported in the western province of Herat, which raised the total number in the most affected part of Afghanistan to 21.
Herat neighbours Iran and concerns are high in the war torn country as around 15 thousands Afghans come from Iran each day.
Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for Afghanisatan’s health ministry, said officials asked the government to quarantine Herat province but he added that no steps have been taken so far.
In a press conference, Mayar showed pictures of empty streets of France, Italy and India and asked people to stay at home.
Last week was the new solar year eve and thousands of people in Herat and across the country went out. Mayar warned that if things go on with “current state of condition, we will have a catastrophe and in that case heath ministry is not responsible”.
The country reported its first Coronavirus death yesterday.
Strict rules on movement could be "in place soon" - UK health Sec
Matt Hancock said stricter rules such as curfews or constraints on movement could come into place “very soon” and urged people still socialising or going to holiday locations to “stop it, and if you don’t stop it then we’re going to have to take more measures”.
He took a much tougher line than the prime minister on those defying social distancing rules, saying people carrying on as usual were being “incredibly unfair to go and socialise in the way we have seen”.
Anger and concern built up over the weekend as images and reports were shared of large numbers congregating in some public places
Hong Kong bans alcohol sales
Why? From chief executive Carrie Lam: “People get intimate when they get drunk.”
It comes after Hong Kongers started to venture out again, only for a second wave of infections as travellers came home. The nightlife district of Lan Kwai Fung has now emerged as the source of an outbreak.
The suspension of liquor licences for the 8,600 venues in question must be legislated so for the moment it’s only a proposal.
But further south, in large parts of Australia it became a reality today.
Under orders from the federal government, all registered and licensed pubs, clubs, casinos and nightclubs are closed, costing thousands of jobs.
Read more here
British rail franchise agreements suspended
Rail franchise agreements are to be suspended to avoid train companies collapsing due to the coronavirus, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.
Operators will be paid a small management fee to run services, with all revenue and cost risk transferred to the Government.
The emergency measures will be in place for an initial period of six months. Rail timetables have been slashed because of Covid-19.
The DfT said passenger numbers have fallen by up to 70%, while ticket sales are down by two-thirds.
The move is coming as no surprise to critics of Britain’s highly privatised model, and many expect there will be no return.
The minister for transport tweets:
Wendy Jacobs, the headteacher of Roose Community Primary School was being cared for at Furness General Hospital, according to local reports.
The school’s board of governors said in a statement: “This is devastating news for our school and nursery community and all our thoughts and sympathies are with her family.”
Hong Kong bans entry to all non-residents
Hong Kong airport will also stop all transit flights.Anyone entering from Macau or Taiwan must undergo 14 days quarantine.
Chief executive Carrie Lam said the epidemic in Hong Kong has become more serious, and extra measures were needed.She warned people not to break the law.”For people who breach the quarantine orders we will tackle these cases severely,” she added.
Police have tracked down five people who absconded home quarantine. Another 36 are under investigation.
Germany: cases rise to 22,672, with 86 deaths
That compares with 18,610 cases and 55 deaths on Sunday, when RKI warned that the actual number was likely higher as not all local health authorities had submitted their figures over the weekend.
Poland has shuttered schools, cinemas and theatres, while limiting public gatherings to no more than 50 people. It has also closed its borders to foreigners and introduced a “state of epidemic”, recommending its citizens to stay at home.
But government spokesman Piotr Muller told public radio in Poland today: “The government is considering various options regarding the epidemic situation, including launching other limitations than up to date.”
Hungary to consider bill that would let Orbán rule by decree
The Guardian’s Shaun Walker reports that the bill seeks to extend the state of emergency declared earlier this month over coronavirus, and could also see people jailed for spreading information deemed to be fake news.
The government has portrayed the move as a necessary response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, but critics immediately labelled the legislation as dangerously open-ended and vulnerable to abuse.
That’s breaking now on Reuters, which adds that people coming from Taiwan and Macau will also need to be quarantined.
“The fear is that we are going to be working in very different ways than we have been. We are used to working in a controlled environment, with dedicated staff,” said Ganesh Suntharalingam, President of the Intensive Care Society, which is the largest multi-professional critical care membership organisation in the UK.
We will remain in control but we are going to have to expand to a very high degree. this is more than just putting intensive care beds in wards,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“This is about moving to a different order of magnitude where we will have to provide essential care for as many people as possible using every resources that we have.”
Britain was not yet in the position were decisions will have to be made about who will get particular care and who will not due to limited resources, he said, but a stage may come where a very broad discussion will have to be made, involving society.
The comments by British Medical Association spokesman and consultant anaesthetist Tom Dolphin come as senior staff at a London hospital told the Guardian they expect beds in its intensive care unit to be full by 30 March, with one source describing its A&E unit as “like a war zone”.
“Like any epidemic, there are hotspots. Some hospitals have had to transfer patients out to other intensive care units,” he told PA Media, adding: “We’re going to get to the point where we are running out of capacity and that transfer ability is going to be difficult to do anyway because nowhere else will have anywhere either.”
In the UK, MPs will be asked today to endorse new powers from the police and other authorities, including doctors. All 390 pages of the coronavirus bill are being rushed through.
The possibility of a much tougher lockdown in line with that of other European states will also be considered today by the prime minister, Boris Johnson, who will discuss this possible measures with ministers and senior officials.
It comes after a weekend of anger in some quarters at the large numbers of people who took to the streets and parks amid sunny weather, as well as concern that Britain is already behind the curve in terms of taking the action needed.
That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for today. I will now be leaving you in the washed and capable hands of colleague Ben Quinn.